July 2, 2010
Major challenges for CARICOM leaders

Fri, Jul 02, 2010

Last week Tuesday, 637 graduates from the four divisions of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College received their diplomas at an amalgamated graduation ceremony held at the Victoria Park.{{more}}

We extend our congratulations to them as well as to all the other students of our nation who achieved milestones during this graduation season.

It was indeed a wonderful sight to see the college graduates in their blue gowns marching to the Victoria Park. Congratulations are also in order for the Government, the Board of Directors of the College and the Faculty for the many steps they have taken in the last few years to increase opportunities for our people.

The graduates from the College will make up a significant part of the core of our nation’s workforce for the next thirty to forty years. They are our nurses, teachers, hospitality workers, technicians, farmers, physicians, accountants, lawyers, engineers, designers, journalists, graphic artists and information technology specialists, to name a few of the professions they will enter.

The Prime Minister, in his address to graduates of the Community College, advised them to choose the universities and courses they will pursue with care. The prime minister knew what he was talking about.

This country’s unemployment rate stands at an estimated 23% of the available labour force. Yet, each year, many companies apply to the government for work permits to fill vacancies in their businesses which cannot be filled by nationals. Despite the large numbers of our students who have been pursuing courses of higher education overseas, we still seem not to be able to produce an adequate supply of workers in certain categories.

There is a dire need for engineers of all types: civil, mechanical, electronic, electrical, industrial. Our fledgling hotel industry needs persons qualified to take up the highly paid executive jobs such as chefs and hotel managers, which more often than not go to non-nationals. We are still understaffed when it comes to persons qualified at the highest levels of the Information Technology field, and technicians are needed in almost every field imaginable. Project Managers, Surveyors, Landscapers, Interior Designers and Architects are all in short supply.

In other words, we need skilled workers. A check at the Labour Department reveals some very telling statistics. Eighty per cent (80%) of job seekers are unskilled, whereas there are no technicians or professionals seeking employment.

Of course, this in no way means that students should not take into consideration their own interests when choosing a field of study. Considering our country’s developmental needs and areas where there are prospects for future employment is critical, but these should not be the only factors considered.

There is nothing worse than getting up every morning to go to a job one hates. Therefore, while school leavers should seek advice from their parents, relatives and other experienced persons, their ultimate choice should be a field in which they are genuinely interested, have the aptitude for and for which there are good prospects for employment or to become self-employed.

On a final note, today’s world is very different to that of a generation ago. Having pursued studies in one area no longer means you are limited to working only in that field. A good basic education equips one to learn, adapt and acquire the skills needed to function in many different fields. There are many affordable options available today to enable our people to acquire skills and qualifications in the areas they are interested without having to leave St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As the Prime Minister said, ask around, seek advice.